Sunday, August 22, 2010

Homemade Tortillas

When we moved from California to our little town in Pennsylvania 22 years ago, I went to the local market to buy some tortillas for dinner. To my shock, they did not carry any! For a Californian who loves Mexican food, this was a catastrophe. Burritos and tacos were staples in our menu, so I knew I needed to find out how to make tortillas myself.

Here is the recipe I used back then. I'm not sure where it came from, and let me tell you, it took a few tries before I got the "feel" of how moist the dough should be to be just right for rolling. I did not have a tortilla press, so I had to roll them out by hand to get them thin enough for burritos, but I made many a tortilla by this recipe until our local store finally started carrying packaged tortillas.


4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. Crisco
14 oz. boiling water

Mix dry ingred. together; cut in Crisco. Add boiling water all at once, and mix with spoon until smooth. Knead dough with hands until elastic. Pinch off balls of dough one at a time and roll out on lightly floured board. Keep remainder of dough covered with damp cloth while working. Bake in non-stick ungreased skillet or on griddle, on med. high heat. Makes abt 18 med size flour tortillas.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hummus For Health

Here's a health tip for those who love to snack but find it is putting pounds on their waistline or contributing to increased blood sugar or other problems.

Every year for Christmas I make up some Hummus to go with our Shepherd's Dinner on Christmas Eve. It goes great with crackers, pita bread or torn bread pieces. I'd always made my hummus with garbanzo beans and sesame seeds, but my oldest son introduced me to Tahini paste (basically ground sesame seeds in paste form) this past year, which results in a much smoother Hummus with great, rich flavor.

After I was diagnosed with diabetes several years ago, I found out that Hummus is also a wonderful food for diabetics as the garbanzo beans fall low on the glycemic index scale and it makes a healthful snack or meal that doesn't raise blood sugar like so many other foods can do. Since then, I've started purchasing Hummus from the store as well as making my own so that I usually have some around in the fridge for whenever I need a small pick me up or a quick lunch. One of my favorite brands is "SABRA". I especially like their Roasted Garlic Hummus and their Pine Nut Hummus. Yum! I even found it at the little market store in Yosemite Valley this past summer and enjoyed a hummus picnic lunch while watching the water cascade over Bridal Veil Falls.

So the next time you have a hankering for chips and dip, reach for a container of Hummus and some pita bread or pita chips instead. You just might form a new, healthier habit.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Favorite Banana Cake

When my kids were all at home, it was hard to keep them filled up! With six boys (and a girl), it seemed like someone was always rooting around in the kitchen, looking for a snack. I did a lot of baking in those days to make sure I had plenty of goodies for late night snack attacks, school lunches, and after school snacks.
Yesterday I saw that I had a big bunch of bananas on the counter that were perfectly ripe and needing to be eaten or used in something, so I pulled out my old Betty Crocker cookbook I received when I got married 30 yrs ago, and turned to my favorite banana cake recipe. I've tweaked it a little, but it is absolutely delicious and serves a crowd.

NINA'S FAVORITE BANANA CAKE - based on Betty Crocker

Put all the following in a large mixing bowl:
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup Crisco
2/3 cup buttermilk (I always keep a quart on hand)
3 eggs
2-3 ripe bananas, mashed up before adding

Mix on low speed for 30 seconds, then on high speed for 3 minutes.
Pour into greased and floured 13x9 pan or two round cake pans
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Can be frosted with cream cheese frosting if you like, but we eat it plain.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

BBQing Mexican Style

Last night my sister took me to the most wonderful little Spanish tienda in Nipomo CA. They had a great selection of local ranch meats, along with a Spanish food bar and lots of fresh ingredients for cooking. I would have loved to get some cactus to try, or the tamale husks, or some of the beautiful hot peppers. But we were BBQing last night, so we bought beef short ribs cut across the bones, not between them, making the meat cuts look like long, thin strips of beef bacon with tiny oval bones holding the strip together. The meat counter man put them in a bag and added a special Mexican marinade made with orange juice and a fabulous tasting blend of spices. It was hard to tease out exactly what was in it, other than an overall feel of smokiness, mild heat and some sweetness that was well-balanced. It was truly delicious and so simple to cook! She used oakwood chunks in her Weber grill to cook over, laid the short rib strips on the hot fire, and gave them a few minutes on each side. Wonderful! You'll see them grilling in the photos here, and on the finished plate with some yummy refried beans, a Chorizo sausage we bought at the store and BBQed as well, plus rice, salad and the store's homemade pico de gallo salsa that was perfect as well. Now, to figure out how to make a marinade like that at home, and to find a butcher who will cut some ribs for me that way!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Saturday Morning Waffles and Pancakes

When my kids were young, Saturday morning was traditionally pancake or waffle day. During the week it was oatmeal or cracked wheat cereal most mornings, so waffles were a treat! The pancakes I made were usually whole wheat from freshly ground flour, and topped with pure maple syrup. With everyone's busy schedules these days, it's more likely that you'll find pancakes or waffles on our dinner menu instead of at breakfast time. Who doesn't love breakfast-for-dinner? I keep vowing to go back to making them with whole wheat flour too, but haven't been very successful yet. Bad Nina!

Here are my pancake and waffle recipes:


1 quart buttermilk
4 eggs
1/2 c. oil
4 c. flour (all whole wheat, 1/2 whole wheat or all unbleached)
1/4 c. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda

Whisk buttermilk, eggs and oil together; mix dry ingred. in separate bowl and then whisk into wet ingred. to make a smooth batter.

Bake on hot greased griddle, turning over when bubbles appear and the edges are 'dry' on the pancakes. Top with fresh fruit, maple syrup or your favorite pancake topping.

6 eggs
2/3 c. oil
1 quart buttermilk
4 c. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Whisk eggs, oil and buttermilk together; mix dry ingred. in separate bowl. Whisk into wet ingredients until you have a smooth batter. Cook in your favorite waffle iron following its instructions. My waffle iron takes 2/3 c. batter per waffle, and I cook them on the setting between 'med' and 'dark' for best results.
Top with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, Cracker Barrel blackberry cobbler filling or maple syrup and butter. Yum! You can also add chopped pecans to the batter for a great bit of 'crunch'.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Basically Delicious Cheesecake

My mother was a fabulous cook, and my Dad knew it. He made sure she always had whatever ingredients she needed to make wonderful meals and desserts for us when I was growing up. My parents lived through the Depression years and had often gone without food we take for granted today, eating only the most basic food items like beans, potatoes and bologna as children. When they married and left those years behind, my Dad vowed never to go hungry again. He made sure our shelves and freezer were stocked with plenty of good things to eat and cook with. And my mother would cook and bake to her heart's content.
One thing we all especially loved was Cheesecake. It seemed like the ultimate indulgence, with its rich, creamy texture and buttery graham cracker crust. There are many versions out there, but I like my cheesecake simple. Here is my favorite cheesecake recipe, which I am calling:

1 1/2 c. Honeymaid brand graham cracker crumbs (I buy them already crushed now)
3 Tbsp. sugar
4. Tbsp. butter, melted
3 8oz. pkg. Philadelphia brand cream cheese
1 c. Breakstone's or Knudsen's sour cream
1 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
4 eggs
1 c. Breakstone or Knudsen's sour cream

Preheat over to 325 degrees
Mix melted butter, 3 Tbsp. sugar and graham cracker crumbs together in a bowl, and press into the bottom and a little up the sides of a springform pan.

Beat together : cream cheese, sour cream, 1 c. sugar, lemon peel and vanilla until smooth. Pour over crust in springform pan.

Bake for 55 min or until set. Let cool. Remove sides from springform pan and put cheesecake on serving plate. Top with 1 c. sour cream.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Holiday Cheese Ball

Every year we host a big caroling party at our house on the Monday before Christmas. Everyone who comes brings a side dish or two, and I make a big pot of corn chowder for the group. A friend of mine makes a big pot of chili, and after the carolers have worked up a good appetite they all crowd into the kitchen to line up for the bowls of soup and chili we start ladling out. The table is always covered with wonderful holiday offers like Christmas cookies and nut breads, cheese and crackers, dips, cornbread and more.
Here is a recipe for a Christmas Cheese Ball that would be perfect for any holiday gathering.

Cheese Ball For Christmas

2 8 oz. pkgs. cream cheese
8 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
1/4 c. mixed red and green bell peppers, finely chopped
2 tbsp. finely chopped onion or finely sliced green onion
1 c. chopped pecans + 1 c. chopped pecans for rolling in

Mix all ingredients together except 2nd c. of pecans. Form into one large ball or several smaller balls. Roll in remaining cup of chopped pecans to coat.

Serve with seasoned crackers or savory breads.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Funeral Potatoes - A Holiday Favorite

My kids love what we call funeral potatoes, those yummy cheesy sour cream hash brown potatoes that are baked until bubbly and golden, and that go so well with baked ham at Easter. Legend has it that the name 'funeral potatoes' was attached to this side dish casserole because it is so easy to bake and bring to an after funeral luncheon.

There are several versions of this recipe around, but this is how I make it:
1 bag Ore-Ida shredded hash brown potatoes
1 can Campbell's cream of chicken soup
1/2 soup can of milk
1 cup Breakstone's or Knudsen's sour cream
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped (include tops)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 stick butter
1 c. crushed corn flakes

Thaw potatoes on counter for a few minutes before starting. Combine condensed chicken soup, milk, sour cream, cheddar cheese, onions, salt and pepper in large bowl. Add potatoes and stir until combined.

Butter a 13x9 casserole pan; spoon potato mixture into it and spread out evenly.

Melt 1/2 stick butter in microwave; mix in small bowl with corn flakes. Sprinkle evenly over the potatoes. (My kids like it if I double the topping).

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees, for 30-45 min, or until the potatoes and sauce are bubbling and hot.

Welcome to Nina's Favorite Recipes

Hi, I'm Nina! When someone has been around as long as I have, they can collect quite a few recipes. From the time I was a teenager, I enjoyed collecting them in a tiny recipe card file that I would take with me when I went babysitting. After all the kiddos were tucked in bed, I would take out my pen and copy down recipes from the files at whatever house I was working at. I also remember sitting at our kitchen table and copying down the ingredients my mother was using as she added them to the pot when making a meal. She rarely used recipes when she cooked, but she was a wonderful cook nevertheless.
I no longer have that original recipe box but I do have a large bookcase in my kitchen that is filled with beautiful cookbooks. I love to look at the photos and get ideas from them.
This blog will be a collection of some of my favorite recipes from past years as well as links to new ones I try out this year and in the future.
In the sidebar you will see recipe categories. If you click on one, it will bring up all the recipes posted here for that category.
Happy Eating! I hope you will find something that your family or friends will enjoy when you make it for them.

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